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Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants
The federal government gives money to colleges and universities so that these institutions can disburse the funds to students who have shown exceptional financial need. For students who need more than a Pell grant, the FSEOG can help to make college much more affordable, though even these two grants combined may not cover every cost for students who qualify.
Students should look around for other grant sources: corporations, individual states, and private organizations are all known to offer grants for college students. However, the source with the most funding is the US federal government. As students are doing their research, they should focus more on need-based grants, if they will qualify for them. These are provided to students who can prove they are facing the most financial difficulty in funding a postsecondary education.Read More
Students may fall into one or more groups that will provide them access to special grants or scholarships:
- Students who have disabilities
- National Guard members and veterans
- Students from under-represented groups
- Students who were or are in foster care
- Students pursuing specific careers
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What is the Federal SEOG?
The US Department of Education offers several types of grants for students to use to pay tuition, purchase books, and cover other school-related fees. These include the Pell grant and the FSEOG. Both are need-based, but the FSEOG is intended for students who prove they have an exceptional financial need.
This grant is provided directly to universities and colleges, who then establish what the annual award will be. In deciding the size of awards, educational institutions must comply with federal minimum and maximum amounts.
To be deemed eligible for either grant (in fact, most forms of financial aid), students must first fill out and submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The FSEOG award is intended to help students with exceptional financial need pay for tuition, fees, books, and other school-related needs. Their award package is determined based on the severity of their financial need. Any other financial aid the student receives will directly impact the size of the FSEOG award.
Several categories help to determine which students receive the FSEOG and which do not.
The federal government established each eligibility category:
- Must be a US citizen holding a valid Social Security Number
- Must complete the FAFSA
- Must demonstrate significant financial need
- Student’s chosen university or college must be accredited
- Must not have any drug convictions
- Should not default on any other federal student loans
- Males 18 and older must register for the Selective Service
- Must have a GPA over a 3.2
- Must have a Pell grant award
Students are required to be able to show they are enrolled in a degree program.
In filling out their FAFSA and the FSEOG application, students have to provide their:
- Driver’s license number
- Social Security Number
- Past year’s W-2 forms
- Parents’ or spouse’s tax return information
- Any recent bank statements
Just by filling out the FAFSA, students will be considered for the FSEOG as long as they have provided all required documents.
How to Apply
The only way you can access FSEOG grant funds is to fill out your FAFSA each year that you are in school. Submit it to fafsa.ed.gov, where it will be reviewed to decide whether you meet the financial need requirements. To be eligible, you must meet each of the requirements listed.
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As you are filling out your FAFSA, you’ll be asked to provide specific information, also listed above. You don’t have to fill anything out specifically to apply for FSEOG; your FAFSA application will be considered for this grant once the Department of Education sees that your parents’ expected financial contribution (EFC) is zero.
Receiving FSEOG funding depends on whether you have submitted your FAFSA within stated deadlines, the level of your financial need, and how much funding is available through your school.
How Much is Offered?
Federal government guidelines require schools to award a minimum of $100 or a maximum of $4,000 to students eligible to receive FSEOG awards. Students who qualify for the FSEOG are low-income students who need more funding than the Pell grant alone provides. Even so, funds from both the Pell grant and the FSEOG will likely not cover all school-related costs.
Students are identified as being eligible for the FSEOG based on the answers they provide on their FAFSA applications. FSEOG-eligible students will receive funds each year, as long as they submit their FAFSA applications and maintain eligibility. FSEOG funds are sent to eligible schools, which then award a predetermined amount to each student. Once the funds are exhausted, no more will be awarded for that year. This is a first-come-first-served system. This is the biggest difference from the Pell grant, which gives funds to every student found eligible.
How are Payments Disbursed?
Once you are found to be eligible for FSEOG and the funds are disbursed to your school, your Financial Aid office or the Office of the Bursar then apply your FSEOG award to outstanding fees on your student account. These fees include tuition, institutional charges, room, board, and any other applicable fees.
Some schools will make payment in a combined method. This involves a portion of the payment being made directly to your student account, while the remainder will be sent in a check that is cut and sent straight to you. Grant fees are placed into your account a few days before school starts.
What Can I Use the Funds For?
After funds have been used to pay for tuition, fees, room and board, etc. - you may still have a little bit of money left over. If this happens to you, then you can apply some of the money toward paying for those too-expensive textbooks that your professors have recommended you buy.
Financial aid administrators aren’t able to dictate how you use any funds you receive. They are able to offer guidance on how it should be spent but they are aware that, because you qualify for the money, you can spend it as you wish. You may choose to use it for transportation to school if you don’t live on-campus by putting gas in your vehicle or buying public transportation access. You may also be able to use it for other expenses, such as utilities.
If you get a check for the remainder of the funds, you may want to consider save it. This way, you can pay for expensive emergencies.
Keeping the Grant from Year to Year
The only way to get an FSEOG grant is to fill out your FAFSA every year. This isn’t only a “fill it out once and get the funds every year” situation. You need to fill out a new FAFSA for the upcoming academic year, every year. Even if you believe all your financial information or that of your parents will stay the same year to year, you still have to submit a new FAFSA every academic year. Failing to do so means you’ll miss out on badly needed grant funds.
You may notice that your FSEOG funds vary from year to year. In one year, they may be reduced while in another year, they may increase. This happens because each school gets a finite amount of FSEOG funds. When your grant award is reduced in one year, this is because your school didn’t get as much as it did the year before.
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Other Funding Options
Other financial aid options are always worth considering. Remember, grant funds alone are unlikely to pay for everything you need each semester. From scholarships to loans, you have many funding options. Beginning with scholarships, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get aid that you don’t have to repay. These are often based on merit rather than need. Your financial aid office should be able to give you a list of scholarships for which you may qualify.
Your parents can also claim education tax credits on their federal income tax returns. Based on how much they paid for your university education, they will get a deduction on their return. These include the Student Loan Interest Deduction, American Opportunity Tax Credit, and others.
Work-study and on- or off-campus jobs allow you to work during the semester to earn an income you can use as you see fit. Work study gives you the option to send a portion of your income directly into your student or loan account to pay tuition and fees.
Private or federal student loans are also an option. Private student loans are based on your credit or based on your parents’ credit. If you need to, you should consider borrowing federal student loans before looking into private loans. Unless you are looking for a ‘Parent’ loan, you’ll get better terms from the federal options. You may also want to look into the Teach Grant Program to help with an education career and funding.